April 9, 2014 at 8:00 am EST | by Mark Lee
Have we lost the ability to be magnanimous when winning or gracious in victory?
gracious, Mozilla-Firefox, Brendan Eich, gay news, Washington Blade

Are we incapable of shedding a victim’s impulse for retribution? (Washington Blade cartoon by Ranslem)

Based on the over-hyped pseudo controversy of the past week, it appears that pitchforks and lit torches have suddenly become fashion accessories among some gays and lesbians and even a few straight supporters.

It’s an ugly trend.

If you’re out of the loop on this, be grateful. It’s almost too painful to recount. The gay community has, once again, been embarrassed by the impulsive impatience and frenzied frustration of activist-extremists. It is likely we’ve also lost the confidence of more than a small number of more conscientious allies along the way.

A troubling display of bloodlust tends to do that.

Most reputable LGBT organizations didn’t take the bait when last week’s controversy regarding open-source technology company Mozilla and its selection of Javascript and Firefox developer Brendan Eich as CEO exploded online like projectile vomiting. The political fringe began calling for his head on a platter, or at least the loss of his employment. He would resign in the wake of the ensuing brouhaha over a long-ago political donation.

No matter that had the situation, or politics, been reversed, the outcry would have been righteously and inversely indignant. Why quibble over principle when a retributive beheading is possible?

His offense? As was long-ago known and publicly debated, Eich had made a small personal contribution to support California’s Proposition 8 campaign opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage. He did so eight years ago, when quite a few others, including prominent public figures and national politicians of many stripes, were not yet willing to support marriage equality – along with the voters of the state.

Never mind that he was universally regarded as a fair administrator, had no history of discriminating against anyone, and pledged to continue and expand corporate diversity policies and programs encouraging acceptance and accommodation. A sort of hapless techno-nerd unskilled in public relations would not be accorded the same courtesy or rights his detractors would expect if roles were reversed.

The transparently ill-considered and contradictory rationalizations for demanding his firing were both simultaneously disheartening and hilarious. Cultural cleansing and purification of opinion were deemed to be superior considerations.

Too many in the chattering class and so-called “progressive” activists gleefully rushed to make an example of an iconic heretic. Consternation by others, notably writer and political commentator Andrew Sullivan, only fueled the ire of what was rapidly devolving into a seething, albeit small, online mob. Soon the crazy only got crazier. Leftist anger bred right-wing outrage and vice-versa, generating the inevitable cycle of viciousness and cartoonish characterizations.

It wasn’t long until liberal Bill Maher dismissively belittled this boorish behavior on his political-comedic TV show, telling viewers amid a backdrop of chortling guest panelists and cackling audience members, “I think there is a gay mafia. I think if you cross them you do get whacked.”

A well-reasoned op-ed by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni last weekend concluded, “Sullivan is right to raise concerns about the public flogging of someone like Eich. Such vilification won’t accelerate the timetable of victory, which is certain. And it doesn’t reflect well on the victors.”

It is astonishing that in the midst of winning hearts and minds on the most essential elements of equality, some would gamble the goodwill of the many for the pleasure of revenge on the few. Punishing those reluctant or unwilling to yet concur only yields suspicion that those who countenance divergent political views might be next.

Call it a moral issue exception if you want, but concocting an illegitimate justification offers no comfort to those caused to wonder exactly who might suffer a good old-fashioned public shaming. If this type of inappropriate and unacceptable reaction is allowed on one instance, what citizen-suspects on what other public issues will also be rounded up for punishment?

Have we lost the ability to be magnanimous when winning or gracious in victory? Are we incapable of shedding a victim’s impulse for retribution?

If so, that’s sad.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

  • I am never a fan of enforced orthodoxy, in any context, and it is always disappointing to me when those who have suffered prejudice and injustice and quick to turn around and apply prejudice and injustice to the next person down the line. Even so, crocodile tears for Mr. Eich, who had more than ample opportunity to explain his current position,and he failed. As a conservative commentator quoted him: "[h]is offense was not to be an outspoken social conservative, a major donor to Focus on the Family, a public paladin for the religious right … it was to have made a modest donation six years ago to a ballot initiative that won a majority at a time when most Democratic politicians still defended the traditional definition of wedlock.

    Or rather, it was to have made that donation and then to have refused, six years later, to publicly recant: While he twisted in the wind, Eich made a lot of promises about diversity and sensitivity and the gay and lesbian and transgendered communities, but he declined to say, “I have changed my mind, marriage is not the union of one man and one woman.” And for that refusal, he had to go." So says Ross Douthat of the New York Times, in a well-thought op-ed blog piece.


    It seems to be there is a LOT of hasty opinion-making, by a lot of people who will regret their hasty opinions, after they bother to read what they (and others) have written….

  • I've yet to see anyone taking this position, including Mark Lee here, who didn't condescend to anyone who disagrees, as I do. A thesaurus of nasty synonyms and an attitude of smug sanctimony about sums up all these commentaries.

    I'd post a more extensive rebuttal, but once you set aside Mark's holier-than-thou preening and his deliberate distortion of the facts, there's not much argument in his piece. As best I can tell, Mark is terrified that the movement will be destroyed if we don't do enough cowering and groveling before bigots. That's what the scolding naysayers told Act-Up too. That's what the accommodationist homophiles said about Stonewall. It's what every homocon says about every pride parade. It's the standard response of those who think they can placate bigots if they just capitulate enough.

    If video surfaced of Eich donning a white hood in his off-hours or contributing to a Holocaust-denying group–neither of which is terribly far from his contribution to Pat Buchanan's 1992 presidential campaign–I think you'd see the same reaction and removal, only more lightning fast. I take it Mark believes that anti-gay bigotry, in contrast, is as perfectly unremarkable as taking a position on energy policy. Just another legitimate viewpoint on an issue of the day. "I favor nuclear power and rendering gays constitutional outcasts." I disagree and, increasingly, so does society at large.

    Anti-gay bigots are now discovering, like anti-Semitic and segregationist bigots discovered some time ago, that their bigotry doesn't just harm their targets. It now has potentially serious consequences for the bigots themselves. That is as it should be. It's no longer acceptable in polite social circles to be an overt racist or anti-Semite. The same is becoming true of being an anti-gay bigot. Why Mark is standing athwart that inevitable evolution and screaming stop is beyond me.

  • Not being contrarian…simply posting an article that raises a number of points about how intertwined one's personal life becomes with his professional life even if his company's policies may be on the forefront of inclusion.

  • Not being contrarian…simply posting an article that raises a number of points about how intertwined one's personal life becomes with his professional life even if his company's policies may be on the forefront of inclusion.

  • Running to the government to strip other people of rights is not a "private view." A "private view" is that he doesn't believe HE should get gay married. Believing that none of us should be allowed to is a PUBLIC view. If he had been an overt anti-Semite or racist, he would never even have been considered for the position. Anti-gay bigotry is now also disqualifying. I welcome the day. Sorry, after 75,000 arguments about how marriage is only for procreation if you're gay, but for love if you're straight and infertile, I'm no longer dignifying the bigotry as legitimate.

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